Different Types of Drug Tests

If you are looking to get a new job (or possibly keep one), you probably know that there are different types of drug tests used by companies and government departments to determine if employees are using illegal drugs.

But drug testing isn’t just about the job. It’s also used for clinical care and substance use treatment. Drug tests, clinical or otherwise, should be interpreted in the right context to avoid them being misleading. Clinicians conduct a drug test to refute or confirm a baseline from an interview. Care should be taken with samples so that they are not interfered with.

Types of Drug Testing

Drug testing panels existed as early as the 1980s following the Drug-free Workplace Act. The drug testing panel tested for marijuana, amphetamine, cocaine metabolites, opiates, and phencyclidine. Today, drug testing panels that are used can test more drugs including benzodiazepine, barbiturates, and more opiates. Biological matrices can be sourced from a body fluid, hair, as well as a person’s breath. Each biological matric has its detection window, depending on the drug being tested due to varied excretion rates from different body parts.

1. Urine Screening

Urine samples are the most commonly used for drug testing. Much care needs to be taken when conducting collection and validation procedures of urine samples as they can easily be tampered with. Proper collection procedures ensure that results obtained from screening are accurate. Automated Immunoassay is used to determine alcohol and drug levels in a person’s system. Urine testing can be done as a two-step procedure or as a stand-alone procedure. When a test gives positive results for a two-step procedure, the second step is used to confirm the results. A negative result is disregarded. Urine screening is suitable for differentiating ongoing use from abstinence in individuals. The following are factors you should consider when using urine in a drug test;
• Urine concentration
• Amount of drugs used
• Time since last use

2. Blood Screening

Blood screening is used in emergency situations. It is an invasive procedure, and clinicians try to avoid it. Phlebotomists conduct blood screening by locating the venous access of an individual. Another reason this procedure is hardly used is the fact that it’s costly. Blood screening is convenient for alcohol detection and not drug detention. Drugs in blood samples as detected as compounds and not the metabolites of those drugs. A blood screening can detect alcohol content between 2-12 hours after last use.

3. Oral Screening

Oral fluids are convenient for varied settings. Oral samples can hardly be tampered with, and the collection procedure is not invasive. With saliva samples, clinicians detect compounds and metabolites of drugs. The window of detection when using saliva samples ranges between 24-48 hours. In case an individual uses a mouth rinse with alcohol content, they should avoid using it 30 minutes to the testing procedure. Swabs are placed in a person’s mouth on the inner cheek and under the lower gums for sample collection.

4. Hair Screening

With hair samples, drugs can be detected days, months or even years after last use. Drug metabolites get trapped in the core of hair. This procedure can be used to determine if an individual is an ongoing user or a sporadic user. The downside of this procedure is that melanin content can tend to increase drug concentration. In case an individual shaves, this procedure cannot be used. Clinicians should cut hair as close to the scalp as possible to determine an individual’s most recent drug use. Additionally, using hair from armpits or facial hair for testing is possible.

5. Breath Screening

Breathalyzers are used for instantaneous estimation of alcohol content and levels in an individual. This procedure is highly accurate and is used by law enforcement to stop drunk driving. There are many testing devices used in the department of transport.

Testing to Maintain Drug-Free Workplaces

Federal employees are required to go through a drug test before they are employed. Companies also use Drug-Free Workplace policies with their employees. Employees in public and private sectors are required to abstain from drugs when they are off or on duty. Collection and validation procedures should be clear and straightforward for accurate results.

Detection windows for different drugs vary depending on their half-life of elimination. Highly fat-soluble substances can be detected even after weeks of an individual’s last use. Drugs like cocaine, for instance, stay longer in a person’s body as compared to alcohol. Normally, one test screens for different drugs at once. A biological sample is used depending on the results desired.